My name is Gavin from the blog The Greening of Gavin. Sharon has asked me to write a post while she is away on holidays so here goes.
I live in a town called Melton West, Victoria, Australia. In our town you will be surprised to learn that there are no garden allotments like you have in the UK, which is quite a shame. I think the main reason behind it is that most houses are built on at least 500 square metres of land, and the local council sees no need in providing vegetable patch spaces when everyone has land to spare. The ironic thing is that at least 40% of the town folk rent their accommodation, so are loathed to develop a veggie patch in their landlords back yard for no compensation.
Now while I agree that they might not receive any form of monetary compensation for making a vegetable patch in the back yard, I really think that they are missing the point. I have found that you don't need to spend very much money at all to get a vegetable garden up and running. You only have to sheet mulch the area that you intend to plant out and then make some borders out of anything you can lay your hands on (there are heaps of old railway sleepers besides the railway tracks), and voila, you have a garden bed. Just whack on some manure from wherever you can get it (farmers will give it to you for $2 a bag over here), then add a mulch, even grass clippings will do, and bung in your seeds. They will grow with a bit of water and TLC, and before you know it, you have free food. Now if I was in a rental situation, free food sounds like a good proposition. Even growing vegetables in pots is a good idea. The money you save on healthy, organic produce can be put towards the deposit for your own home, or anything you like really. You could even buy a chook tractor, and keep chickens in the back yard. Free eggs from kitchen scraps and a bit of seed also is a good deal as far as I am concerned.
Earlier I said that it is a shame that we do not have allotments. The reason I say that is that this town lacks a community spirit outside of joining a sporting club. No everyone are sporting types, and most are armchair spectators (watch it on telly). For keen gardeners, it is hard to find like minded people, and I think that a community allotment would go a long way to achieving that. I believe that when gardeners get together, there is always a keen sense of competition about their how they grow their produce. Who can grow the biggest tomatoes, who's squash is the tastiest and largest, who can grow the most potatoes. You get the idea. By having this meeting place for gardeners, who all share ideas, and tips and tricks, growing your own food is a practice that is kept alive and well in the community. A great sense of pride is also kept alive and well. It is a sense of pride that also build a healthy and thriving local community.
Do you know how I know all of this? Well, I am married to Kim who originally comes from Southampton, Hampshire and that city has a huge allocation of allotments. When I lived in the UK for 6 months, I used to walk past them quite often, and there were always people tending their patches and talking to one another about this and that. It warmed my heart to see people who probably don't even know their neighbours, and taking the time to talk to fellow gardeners. That is how communities get built and towns with a sense of community thrive in troubled times like these and are much more resilient. People who talk to each other, learn more about each others lifestyle, and therefore look out for one and another.
So, don't let anyone take these wonderful meeting places away from you in the UK. If your council thinks they can get rid of the community allotment space, let them know that you care about your part of the world.